Robert filmed and interviewed the descendants of three African American WW II heroes. All three WWII heroes died on the same calendar day.
Ground Breaking Contributions
Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. is one of three "unsung" World War II (WWII) heroes from Memphis, Tennessee who made ground breaking contributions to American History. His heroic exploits as a Tuskegee Airman in WWII and his responsibilities as the first African-American air traffic controller in Memphis have gone largely "unsung." The calendar date of October 15 is a link that Lt. Col. Weathers shares with two other WWII heroes from Memphis.
Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. Is Linked to Ernest C. Withers, Sr. And PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr. By the Day of October 15
Three Linked World War II Heroes
Luke J. Weathers, Jr., Ernest C. Withers, Sr., and PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr. are all WWII heroes whose lives are linked:
- All died on the same day; October 15
- All served in WWII
- All made great contributions to United States history
The year of death differs for each man:
- Rodgers died in 1993
- Withers died in 2007
- Weathers died in 2011
Truth Be Told
According to Luke J. Weathers III, "...truth be told, the United States really would not have won WWII if it had not been for The Tuskegee Airmen who escorted the bombers on their assigned missions."
The Tuskegee Airmen
The Best Record
- The Tuskegee Airmen reportedly hold the best record of air support and air battles in US military history.
- The Tuskegee Airmen never lost a single bomber under their protection.
Triumphful Air Battles
During World War II, Tuskegee Airman Luke J. Weathers, Jr.:
- Reported to escort a wounded bomber to England
- Flew beneath the bomber to disguise his presence from possible enemy attack
- Engaged enemy contact with eight German plans that attacked the bomber
- Flew into the German planes head on
- Immediately took down one of the planes
- Avoided the other seven German planes that came after him
- Ended up on the tail of one of the enemy planes that was on his tail first
- Sent a second German aircraft tumbling to the ground
..truth be told, the United States really would not have won WWII if it had not been for The Tuskegee Airmen who escorted the bombers on their assigned missions.
— Luke J. Weathers, III
Red Tail Planes
Honor and Respect
The Tuskegee Airmen served their country with honor and respect.
Although undeniably the greatest pilots and crew efforts in military history, they were not allowed to participate in the victory parade held in New York celebrating the end of WWII.
The Tuskegee Airmen were transported secretly to a secluded train terminal for transport.
Not Allowed to Participate
Luke J. Weathers, Jr. is credited with:
- Shooting down seven, enemy, German airplanes on escort missions over Greece and Italy
- Being awarded the distinguished flying cross with seven clusters
The Distinguished Flying Cross
The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself by showing heroism and extraordinary achievement in an aerial flight.
Promoted to Captain
When his WWII tour ended, Luke J. Weathers, Jr. was promoted to Captain and returned to his alma mater, Tuskegee University, in order to share his experience as an instructor.
Were The Tuskegee Airmen Properly Recognized?
June 25,1945 was called Luke J. Weathers Day in Memphis. This was an honor that had never been bestowed on an African American in the city of Memphis.
A parade headed down Beale Street and Main and ended in Handy Park. Speeches were made and a key to the city was given to Captain Weathers. This was also the first time that an African-American ever received such an honor in the city of Memphis.
A dance followed with music provided by the Navy Air Station Band.
Family and Friends
During the celebration with family and friends, young Captain Weathers noticed a young woman named LaVerne. The young woman later became Captain Weathers' wife. The wedding took place on Wednesday July 13,1947. From that union they had five children.
LaVerne's classmate and childhood friend, Ernest C. Withers (both were graduates of Manassas High School) photographed the wedding.
Ernest credited Luke for purchasing his first camera.
Captain Weathers remained as a reservist in the military for twenty-three years and was promoted to the rank of Lt. Col.
Luke J. Weathers Day in Memphis
In 1960, after strenuous testing, Weathers was accepted for employment in the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) as an Air Traffic Controller.
His first duty assignment was in Anchorage, AL. Shortly after he was transferred to Galena, AL. Later Weathers was transferred to Nashville, TN.
Eventually in 1965 Lt. Col. Luke J.Weathers, Jr. became the first African American Air Traffic Controller in Memphis, TN.
Weathers also held FAA positions in Atlanta, GA and Washington D.C. where he eventually retired in 1985.
Honored in His Hometown
Luke J. Weathers, Jr. was the first African American in Memphis, TN to:
- Have a day in his honor
- Be given the key to the city
- Be an air traffic controller
In the Words of His Son
Luke J. Weathers III made an excellent tribute to his father when he said; "We will never forget what he has given us, as a father, a hero (and) as a man."
We will never forget what he has given us, as a father, a hero (and) as a man.
— Luke J. Weathers III
© 2015 Robert Odell Jr